Published Online: September 21, 2009

Obama Touts Efforts to Help Economy, Colleges

President Barack Obama said Monday that better economic days are coming thanks to innovation and some help from the government.

Obama delivered an economic pep talk and a plug for his economic recovery plan: a sustained investment in education, technology, health care and research. He told his audience at Hudson Valley Community College that for years, Washington has not lived it up to its responsibilities to help.

"As we emerge from this current economic crisis, our great challenge will be to ensure that we do not just drift into the future," Obama said. "Instead, we must choose to do what past generations have done: shape a brighter future through hard work and innovation."

His pitch came in a region where the economic mood has long been gloomy. Countrywide, unemployment is at 9.7 percent, the highest level since 1983.

Obama's speech came a day after he made appearances on five Sunday morning talk shows at the top of a week that will take him to New York for the U.N. General Assembly and to Pittsburgh for a gathering of the world's 20 largest economies. Both will be the focus of international attention but also come as the administration is trying to spark a domestic agenda that has stalled in the Democratic-controlled Congress.

To that end, his speech at Hudson Valley Community College was repackaging his programs as part of a strategy for innovation. He said new ideas produce new jobs and the United States must invest in education, infrastructure and research.

On the campus, Obama toured a classroom lab where students were working with transformers and studying power distribution.

"This looks complicated," the president said. He chatted with students as he examined the circuitry and computers and asked instructors about the real-world applications of the students' work. He was accompanied by Jill Biden, a college instructor and the wife of Vice President Joe Biden.

Hudson Valley Community College already has received some $2 million in federal grants to promote environmentally friendly jobs and train students in energy efficiency programs.

Obama is scheduled Monday to become the first sitting U.S. president to appear on television's David Letterman's "Late Show" couch — another example of a White House strategy designed to put Obama in front of as many cameras as possible to sell his message to a skeptical public.

"He's been on everything but the Food Channel," joked Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.

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